Clowns. Overrated. Irrelevant. Distracted. Joke.
Those are all terms you hear when pundits and writers attempt to describe the Jets. The .500 Jets.
The negativity is so overbearing that you would think this team was on par with the 2008 0-16 Detroit Lions in terms of on-field success. Actually, I don't even think those Lions had as many bad things written about them as the 8-8 2011 Jets did.
To be fair, the Jets had a media backlash coming. Rex Ryan's boldness undoubtedly rubs some people the wrong way, but his initial success prevented a full-blown media attack on Ryan's team.
Still, at some point, they were not going to go on a long playoff run that spared them from full-blown media hate, and those with media influence were going to pounce on the opportunity to crush the Jets' unusual way of doing business.
Throw in the Tebow trade, and it was open season to pick apart the Jets this summer.
But as those who follow the Jets closely know, they are anything but a joke of laughing stock of the NFL.
Perception vs. Reality
There are few industries in which perceptions can change as quickly as they do in the NFL. Just take Michael Lombardi's recent statement as a testament to the power of perception:
NFL Network's Mike Lombardi on #Jets: "I think they should just make Tebow the starter. ... And run that Denver offense."
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) July 29, 2012
Let me get this straight: The Jets, who finished 8-8, should adopt Denver's offense, which helped them also go 8-8 and get crushed in the playoffs by New England.
If Marion Barber stays in bounds, Jim Leonhard wraps up Eddie Royal in the end zone, Matt Prater misses a field goal—and we are talking about the 2011 Broncos as a failed experiment as opposed to an offense with the potential to succeed.
But because the Broncos did make the playoffs and managed to steal a game from the Steelers, the Broncos' season is presented as a success, whose philosophies should be adopted from teams like the Jets, who have failed in comparison to their expectations.
A Higher Standard
Let's face it: The Jets are held to a higher standard of character than just about every other team in the NFL. Braylon Edwards get a DUI, and the Jets are crushed because they only benched him for one quarter of a game.
David Diehl gets a DUI and it barely makes the front page. He apologizes to the media, and everyone moves on.
Could you imagine if a Jet was one of the many arrests this offseason? It took a handful of arrests for the Lions to get talked about as a team with severe character issues. Patriots owner, (yeah, owner), Robert Kraft is seen in one of the strangest, uh, auditions ever recorded, and the story is old by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, Rex Ryan is still on the butt-end of foot fetish jokes.
Not only are the Jets criticized more for their actions, but they actually get in less legal trouble than just about every other team in the NFL. As of November of 2011, the Jets are tied for first in terms of being the least-arrested teams in the NFL. After this summer's spike in player arrests, the Jets accumulate for an even smaller percentage of the NFL's total arrest count.
A Franchise with Authenticity
With the trade for Tim Tebow in the midst of perceived franchise turmoil, it is easy to point to the Jets as nothing but a bunch headline-grabbing clowns.
Part of that statement is true; the Jets do love the headlines and the attention that comes along with it, but not just because they love pushing down the Giants to the bottom of the page. Being proud, outspoken and excited about the future is an authentic reflection of Rex Ryan's personality.
When Rex Ryan makes his guarantees that entice so much rage within opposing teams' fanbases, it is not because Ryan likes to be mocked and laughed at. He says what he says because he believes it. In today's world of superficial coach-speak and empty statements, Ryan and the Jets are a breath of fresh air.
Most coaches view the media as an obstacle or nuisance; Ryan views it as a medium to convey positive messages to his team. Everything he says comes from the heart; contrary to popular belief, he does not just say things because he loves reading all of the hate he gets in the news the next day.
Tebow is Not a Ticking Time Bomb
Obviously, the easiest way to pick apart the Jets nowadays stems from their trade for Tim Tebow, who is the only backup quarterback that is more popular than the starter.
From an outsiders' perceptive, it is easy to assume that this combination of Tebow and Sanchez will make a locker room that has already had its' share of issues even more divisive.
However, the fact is that Rex Ryan has been responsible to many strong locker rooms in his coaching past. The 2009 Jets, in which Rex was more hands-on in the installation of his new style than in more recent seasons, were as tight as they come in terms of being a team.
In 2011, his executive-like approach to the position of head coach failed, as the locker room was left in "disarray" after a three-game losing streak left the Jets out of the playoffs. Now, Rex has pledged to be more like the coach he was in 2009, being present in meetings and making his players more accountable for their actions.
All Tebow adds to the equation is a man who is humble and works hard. Does he want to start? Sure, every player in the NFL wants to start, but Rex, not Tebow's avid fanbase, makes the decisions.
As long as Tebow continues to be Tim Tebow, who is a humble, hard-working guy no matter his situation, he can only be a positive influence to the Jets, not a divisive force.
Now, are the Jets perfect in all of their past actions? Of course not. They obviously did make proclamations and promises that they did not deliver on. After last season's collapse, Ryan has vowed to tone down his tendency to make bold statements.
What the Jets need to focus on now is accountability. The Jets are a talented team that can go as far as they want, but they need to not blame coordinators or locker room issues for their shortcomings.
Rex knows the importance of accountability, as Dan Leberfeld of Jets Confidential has noted:
Rex wants more accountable - "We don’t want to be in that same situation (like last year) with accountability and all that type of stuff."— Dan Leberfeld (@jetswhispers) July 29, 2012
Therefore, criticize the Jets for the personnel moves or on-field performance all you want. Just do it with a clear mind and without distaste for coaching styles in your mouth.
This is not an organization that tolerates a "circus" atmosphere. Instead, this is a team loaded with talent that has a coach that is willing to go to the ends of the earth to get his team back on track.